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Difficult question, isn't it.  I have a "revolving" list;  probably we all do, with some rising and falling over time.  But there's a certain core group I'll always love.  I'd like to know yours, and perhaps your reasons for that, if you care to give them.  Mine are:

"The Big Heat"    directed by Fritz Lang    Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, Alexander Scourby, Lee Marvin, Jocelyn Brando

Lang is a favorite.   I like the way Glenn Ford's rage gets turned up and then sustains throughout the film.  He's fantastic when he's "righteous" and roused out of his sort of quiet mien.   Gloria Grahame just right as the moll.  Wicked turn by Lee Marvin.

"Shadow of a Doubt"    Hitchcock     That scene between Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright in the "Take Two" joint (I think it was called "take two". )   Electric.  Those two, operating at such a high level, wow.   Joseph Cotten is wonderful in noir.   Hume Cronyn, lovely.  Another original performance I liked was Patricia Collinge as the vague, doting mother.

"The Big Combo"    Joseph H. Lewis    Evil, taunting performance by Richard Conte.   Jean Wallace has an ethereal, damaged princess quality, kept apart from her rightful prince, Cornel Wilde.   Incredible, jangling, insinuating musical score by David Raksin at the beginning, that sets the whole tone.

"Phantom Lady"   Robert Siodmak    Alan Curtis is accused of strangling his wife, and only "Kansas" his dogged secretary, (Ella Raines) sets out into the underworld to find the mystery woman who can clear him.   New York night world,  Elisha Cook jazz drumming to the point of hysteria,  fear mounting throughout.   Plenty flawed, but vibrant little film.

"The Reckless Moment"   Max Ophuls      Joan Bennett is a housewife on the California coast, and her daughter mixed up with an older, "bohemian" cad.  Tragedy results in Joan going into clandestine, near-criminal mode, and James Mason takes advantage of that, but then falls for her.   LOVE Joan Bennett.  I don't necessarily love James Mason, but gosh he is so memorable as this ambiguous, fringe-y character .

By the way, does anyone know if TCM ever shows "Phantom Lady"--  I can't remember if I saw it on there or not.

Sorry to be so long-winded, but it is almost impossible to keep the number down to five.  Really wanted to put more!

Would love to hear about other's favorites. 





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Right at the top would be The Maltese Falcon.   A conventional choice, to be sure, but conventional choices get that way for a reason.

I love the quirkiness of Kiss Me Deadly, and I'm always a sucker for a sci fi twist.

Rounding out the top three would be The Big Heat.  Hey, Fritz Lang.

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Hey Lilypond, great choices! I saw your post on the other TV noir thread about the dearth of replies here.   I'm glad you mentioned it because I think people just get in a habit of posting in certain threads.  I'm guilty of it myself and rarely check this forum because of, well,  laziness, to be honest.    At first I was turned off by the GANGSTER-NOIR heading but I'll get over it and plan to post more on here.

I found it impossible to narrow my list down to 3 - 5 noirs, so forgive me but It's VERY tough.  As of today these would be my top ten desert island flicks.  Probably no big surprises, but to me these are the cream of the crop.  I could watch them over and over on my desert island for maybe 6 months before losing it.


1. Sunset Boulevard, 1950 (Billy Wilder) William Holden, Gloria Swanson
2. The Night of The Hunter, 1955 (Charles Laughton) Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters
3. Act of Violence, 1944 (Fred Zinneman) Van Heflin, Robert Ryan, Janet Leigh, Mary Astor
4. In A Lonely Place, 1950 (Nicholas Ray) Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame
5. Rebecca, 1940 (Hitchcock) Joan Fontaine, Laurence Olivier
6. Scarlet Street, 1945  (Fritz Lang) Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Dan Duryea
7. Ace in the Hole, 1951 (Billy Wilder) Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling
8. Criss Cross, 1949 (Robert Siodmak) Burt Lancaster, Yvonne De Carlo, Dan Duryea
9. Sudden Fear, 1952 (David Miller) Joan Crawford, Gloria Grahame, Jack Palance                                                                                                                  10.Too Late For Tears, 1949 (Byron Haskin) Lizabeth Scott, Dan Duryea

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Whew, RJBARTROP,  and KATIE_G,    needless to say I'm so glad you weighed in!

I love all three of yours, RJBARTROP.     "Kiss Me Deadly" almost made my top five too.  Such an apocalyptic, florid example of late noir.   So many great touches, like that gangbusters opening with Cloris Leachman running down that lonely highway....

KATIE_G ,  you are so kind to explain to me the ins and outs of posting here!   I was also confused by the "Film Noir-- Gangsters"  designation, but decided it was the closest to my topic and posted there.  

Whoa, your list has so many faves of mine too--  agreed, it is impossible to narrow things down so rigidly, as I was asking!  Your list is an arc of excellence.    Additionally, on your list "Sudden Fear"  and "Too Late for Tears"--   don't you think they generally don't get enough attention?   I notice though that TCM has been showing "Sudden Fear" more than they used to.   I know "Act of Violence" is extremely good, but the sense of dread I have when watching it, has kept me away!   Some powerful noirs are like that... 


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3 hours ago, lilypond said:

  Additionally, on your list "Sudden Fear"  and "Too Late for Tears"--   don't you think they generally don't get enough attention?

Absolutely love them.   They may not be thought of as great movies, but I find them to be very entertaining, and Gloria Grahame and Lizabeth Scott are favorites.

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Those are absolute classics, JAMESJAZGUITAR,  setting such a high bar for the noir genre.  I'm really glad to see "The Big Heat" on more than one list.   I think a strong case could be made that "Out of the Past" is the most "perfect" of all noirs.  It yields so much with each viewing.... and that terse dialog-- again, perfection.

Oh, me too,  I have the same reaction to "Sudden Fear" and "Too Late for Tears" , KATIE_G.     They'd make a great, moody double feature!

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 Kiss of Death, Night and The City,  Pick-Up on South Street. Scarlet Street, The Stranger, Odd Man Out, Brighton Rock, The Third Man, The Window, The Big Heat. Leaving out a lot.  Only three-- sadistic.  Am adding Sabotage (Hitchcock) -- because I love it. Chronologically  too soon for noir, but it is pre-noir, noir prototype.


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# 1 Key Largo(1948)

Easy, because before I'd even heard of film noir, it was and is one of my favourite movies of all time. Star power:

Bacall. Bogart. E.G. Robinson.  L. Barrymore. 

Claire Trevors' performance was heartbreaking. 

The unrelenting tension between the victims and criminals along with the horrible storm threat thrown in for good measure.

#2 Gun Crazy(1950)

Peggy Cummins acts and looks absolutely CRAZY.

John Dall plays CREEPY. He is also creepy in Hitchcocks' Rope(1948), but in a totally different way.

Super simple plot. But the cinematography is starkly beautiful.

Watching this movie is like going on a joyride that you know in your gut will end tragically.

#3 Too Late for Tears(1949)

I watched this for the first time because I had read somewhere that Lizabeth Scott sounded like Bacall when she spoke(I love Bacall).

Lizabeth Scott is the perfect femme fatale here. Greedy, immoral, dangerous. 

If I was ever asked to recommend a first noir film for someone, this would be my go-to.

Other favourites:

The Big Sleep(1946)

The Lady from Shanghai(1947) or Touch of Evil(1958). Choosing between Orson Welles movies are always difficult for me. 













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